Book Review: Hellie the Hovercraft Elephant

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Hellie the Hovercraft Elephant

Author: Carrie Mortleman

Publisher: Createspace

Release Date: April 15th, 2016

Genre: Children’s Book, Illustrated

Pages: 118

Synopsis:

“I’m Hellie the Hovercraft Elephant and I’m ever so tall, I’m Hellie the Hovercraft Elephant and I never fall. I have fur that is fairy floss pink, and it’s wonderfully fluffy and light. For although I am an elephant, I’m an elephant in flight!” Hellie the elephant has a very special skill – she can fly! But when she meets Queek the mouse, she learns that the power of friendship is the strongest superpower of all. Children will love flying with Hellie on this magical journey that blasts through fear and zooms into fun and friendship.

My First Thoughts:

I love getting requests for illustrated children’s books! They’re always so interesting and I love seeing how the illustrations help tell the story. So I was very excited to get this book in the mail and I read it just in time too, because I needed a serious pick-me-up!

Rating:

4/5

Hellie the Hovercraft Elephant is definitely a cute little read. The story is a little hard to follow in the beginning, but after a page or two it really picks up and gets easier to follow. The rhyme scheme was simple, but really nice because it didn’t seem like the author had to stretch much to get the words to rhyme. Some of the words that Ms. Mortleman uses I think would be a bit tough for younger kids, but I guess it’s a way to expand their vocabulary. I loved the illustrations of this book and I think they’re my favorite part. Each page is different, each character or scene has a different texture and I found it fascinating to look at. Overall, I think it’s a cute little book that I really think kids and their parents will enjoy reading together.

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Book Review: Zucchini’s Zany Life

zucchinis-zany-lifeNote: We were given a free copy of this book in exchange for and honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Zucchini’s Zany Life

Author: Marilla Mulwane

Publisher: CreateSpace

Release Date: November 25, 2016

Genre: Children’s Nonfiction

Pages: 72

Synopsis:

This is the story of the house duck named Zucchini who steals hearts and provides the dearest bond anyone could experience. Ever thought about having a duck as a pet? I don’t mean an outdoor duck in a pen or that wanders around your pond. I mean a duck that lives in the house with you, sleeps with you, eats with you, plays with you. If you never have considered it, you just might once you’ve read about Zucchini.

If you have considered having a house duck, then this book will teach you everything you need to know to keep your duck happy and healthy. Learn useful information such as:
-How to set up a duck cage
-What to feed your duck
-How to diaper your duck at all ages of life
-How to bond with your duck
-How to keep your duck healthy and illnesses to watch out for
-How to clip wings
-How to train your duck (It’s possible!) and much more!

All this information is interspersed with fun tales and pictures of Zucchini’s zany life!

My First Thoughts:

Nonfiction is normally not really my thing, but the author sent me a picture of Zucchini that was just too cute! I fell and love with this little duck and had to read about her. Who knows, maybe someday I’d like to own a pet duck?

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Nonfiction is not a genre I find myself gravitating toward or that I get very excited about. However, I found this book to be informative and cute. I loved getting to read the stories about the author’s pet duck, Zucchini, and I found the information presented in a way that was child-appropriate and mostly easy to understand. I feel that there were things included in this book, like how to make a diaper for your pet duck, that I probably wouldn’t find in most other how-to care for a duck books (if there  even are some?). I appreciated how the author and her duck have a relationship where the Zucchini spends most of her time out of her cage, because I feel like most kids would want that kind of relationship with their pets and most duck-raising books are probably more directed to farmed or caged ducks (although, I genuinely don’t know, having never researched how to care for a pet duck!)

I learned a lot reading this book, but there are some things, like potential health issues, that I feel were a little glossed over because of the target age range. That’s fine, but I would want to consult more books before I actually took the step toward owning a pet duck. Most of the author’s resources seem to be from personal experience, but that colors her writing and leads to instructions that are a little unclear and rambling.

Final Thoughts:

I feel like this would be an excellent book to present to a child (at least 9 years old) if they express interest in having a pet duck. It covers the fun parts of owning a duck, but it also talks about the parts that aren’t fun, like pooping, illness, and nesting. However, the several guides in the book for building or creating things for your duck are a little hard to follow sometimes and I wish that there was a list of other resources that could be used to supplement the adult-in-charge’s education about taking on the responsibility of a pet duck.

Rating(s):

3/5

Like I said, I believe that this is an excellent book to give a child that is considering a pet duck so they can learn about how to take care of it. It has a lot of good information and fun stories to keep a kid entertained as they learn about their new responsibility. However, as a worry-wart adult, I would want to consult other books as well, and I wish that there was a list of additional resources somewhere in the book.

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Blogger Note: Please don’t forget that we are also involved with Inkitt’s Novel Writing Contest! It was announced recently by Jessica in this post. If you’re interested in entering the contest or want to read more about it, you can do so here!

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Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

3Details:

Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Author: J. K. Rowling

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Release Date:  October 1998 (American Edition)

Genre: Fantasy, Childrens-Middle Grade, Novel

Pages: 309

Synopsis:

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a room far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to harch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley—a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry—and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable.

For it’s there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him… if Harry can survive the encounter.

My First Thoughts:

When I was about to read this book for the very first time, I was seven years old and bullied constantly at my Catholic school for being too smart—especially when it came to reading. My second-grade teacher had also already deducted points from a book report I had written because the book I read was “too advanced.” My mom gave it to me time and time again, but I refused to read it. I remember saying that it was going to be too hard to read, but I knew that I just didn’t want to be seen at school carrying such a large book when I was already being bullied and getting marked down for reading things that were above my grade level. Eventually, on a trip to Ocean City with my family, my mom wore me down and I read the first page.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

I will forever be thankful my mom was so adamant I read this book. As a bullied little girl with a single friend and a lot of insecurities, I connected with Harry and his friends almost immediately. I remember the writing being a little hard for me to read at the time, but it was accessible enough for me to enjoy and understand. I started reading the book and I couldn’t put it down. I spent the next three or four weeks (I was seven and reading a book several years above my reading level, so it took me a while to read) taking this book with me everywhere. I went from being so concerned to starting this book because someone I knew may see my reading it and make fun of me to not caring in the slightest because I had to know what was going to happen when Draco challenge Harry and Ron to a duel, or when Hagrid got his hands on a dragon’s egg, or what was going to happen when the trio went down the trap-door in the forbidden corridor. Being “too smart” for my teachers and peers… not fitting in—it didn’t matter anymore—not when I had Hogwarts just a page turn away. Now, as an adult, I still find Hogwarts is my favorite place to go when I’m bored, or stressed, or just needing to refocus.

I do not praise Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone so highly only because of sentimentality. One of the most important things an author can do with their words is show their readers everything that is happening in the story rather than simply telling them. It is a difficult, subtle skill that too few authors possess. J. K. Rowling, however, has done an amazing job showing me everything in the story, from the spiders lining the roof of Harry’s cupboard under the stairs, to the majesty of Hogwarts castle through the seasons, to the bushy curls of Hermione’s hair, to the freckles on each of the Weasleys’ noses. Every character has life, every setting has scale, and every season has breath through Rowling’s descriptions. This book has so much detail in it that every time I read it I discover something new, but I’ve never felt overwhelmed by it. Over the years, it has felt like every time I gain new information from the book it isn’t because I missed it before, it is because I’ve reached a different point in my life and it matters more to me now.

The most important thing to me, however, is an author’s characters and their development. I’ve already stated in this article how I quickly connected with Harry, but his development over the book is remarkable. Taken from an abusive home and thrust into fame, he handles it with confusion, humility, and some incredulity. He is sarcastic but caring, hard working and kind. Harry isn’t perfect, though. He seeks revenge and slacks off in some of his classes. He breaks rules and makes many poor choices. He isn’t even my favorite character of the book! My favorite character is Hermione, the know-it-all bookworm. The girl who had issues relating to her peers, but had an answer for everything, and always had her nose in a book… with the situation that I was in personally, how could I not relate? Especially since that wasn’t all she was, and as much as being smart and studious was a good character trait, being a know-it-all caused her relationships with peers and certain teachers to suffer. The highest praise that I feel I can give characters and character relationships in books is that they feel as real as the people and relationships I experience in the real world.

All this praise does not mean that this book is without its flaws. It does take a while for the story to feel like it has gotten started. Hagrid doesn’t even show up until chapter 4, and we don’t get to Hogwarts until chapter 7. The very end of the book is quite exposition heavy in a “let’s sum up everything that happened because you were comatose” way. But these flaws are minor in the grand scheme of the book.

Final Thoughts:

A sign of truly good children’s literature is that it can be read and enjoyed thoroughly by adults, and I feel that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a prime example of that. I will whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t read it. I know that it has been a source of controversy since its release, but I have found that everyone I have ever talked to that held the negative opinions about Harry Potter and its devotion to witchcraft had never actually read the book. Harry does not go to Hogwarts so Rowling can teach children how to follow the occult, he exists in a world of magic that makes impossible situations suddenly probable.

Rating(s):

5/5

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone will always hold a special place in my heart as the book that helped me to accept myself and embrace my love of reading. It’s helped me to stay true to who I am and to discover who I am. I will forever love this book.

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Book Review: Santa and the Christmas Dragon

santa-and-the-christmas-dragon

NOTICE: I was given a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Santa and the Christmas Dragon

Author: Amanda Roberts

Illustrator: Cherith Vaughan

Translator: Yaqian Gong

Lineart: Ruth Silbermayr-Song

Publisher: Two Americans in China Press

Release Date: September 1st 2016

Genre: Children’s Book

Pages: 32

Synopsis:

Ming the Christmas Dragon
Helped Santa pull his sleigh.
She brought Christmas to China.
Oh, Hip-hip-hoo-ray!

明和圣诞龙
帮圣诞老人拉雪橇
她将圣诞节带到了中国
欧,嘿嘿呼啦啦!

Once upon a time, Santa brought Christmas to China. But how did that happen? Thanks to a little dragon named Ming, Santa, the elves, and all the reindeer are able to learn about Chinese culture and gain the friendship of mighty dragons to help spread Christmas cheer throughout the world!

This beautiful bilingual children’s book – presented in English, Chinese characters, and Chinese pinyin – is sure to delight readers young and old as they learn about spreading holiday cheer and learning about other cultures!

很久很久以前, 圣诞老人将圣诞节带到了中国, 他是怎么做到的呢? 这要感谢一条叫做明的小龙, 圣诞老人, 小精灵, 和驯鹿. 他们学习中国文化, 获取了大龙的友谊, 将圣诞节日的喜悦传播到全世界.

这本美妙的双语儿童书—由英文, 中文汉字, 中文拼音组成. 可以让老少读者一起感受分享节日的喜悦, 并学习到他国的文化!

My First Thoughts:

I’m always looking for children’s books to review just because they brighten up my day and not enough sites review them. But I thought that this story would get me into the Christmas mood and I was curious as to see how this story unfolded.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

The first thing I’m gonna do is geek out a little bit and start out with some trivia. The average human has an easier time learning a second language before their teenage years. After they become a teenager the language centers of their brains start to become more rigid making it harder for them to learn a second language, that’s why it’s difficult to retain any Spanish (or whatever second language you took) after high school or college. However, if a child learned a second language before their teenage years it is easier for them to learn more languages, even after they become an adult. Sure, maybe you’ve retained a few choice words in another language (I myself swear in Italian from time to time after playing Assassin’s Creed) but most people cannot speak the language fluently or even semi-fluently if they learned it after becoming a teenager.

With all that said, I was tickled pink to see the Chinese words and characters written a long side the English words. It was so interesting to see how English translated into Chinese and how different they looked side-by-side. And I could definitely see how useful this book would be if a parent were thinking about teaching their children Chinese, or if they wanted to teach them English. Seeing the translations together and the teaching that could be done with it adds an extra element to this story that not many children’s books have.

The story itself is really cute. It teaches children that not all kids find value in the same things. For example, kids from the Western world might find a lot of enjoyment out of toy trains, robots, stuffed animals and dolls. However, this book shows that Chinese kids might find enjoyment out of completely different toys such as paper kites, oriental dolls, flutes, etc. Overall, it shows that a child’s taste for toys, like anything else, is influenced by their environment and not every child grows up in the same conditions. It also teaches kids a little bit about conflict resolution and comprise. Santa had to find new solutions, such as comprise and adapting to new sets of rules, to the problems that he faced in the story.

The illustrations were rather pleasing to look at. Most of the character drawings were simple, while some of the background drawings were a bit more complex. The coloring was also well done, with nice shading and attention to detail when needed. The illustrator did a fantastic job incorporating traditional Chinese art with their own, though a bit more simplistic than what you would see hanging in an art gallery. The illustrations also followed the mood of the story very well, the images were a darker when the mood was a bit more solemn and they were bright when the mood was cheery.

Final Thoughts:

This book is absolutely fantastic, and I totally recommend buying this, especially if you have children. It’s a fun story to read out loud, it amused my boyfriend and me when I read it aloud to him. The pictures are nice to look at and it’ll bring enjoyment to not only kids, but probably most adults as well.

If you want to teach your kids either English or Chinese, this story is definitely going to help them learn. It does a fantastic job keeping both translations of the story side-by-side, so that you can compare the two. And let’s be honest, it’s pretty nifty to own and read a book that’s also written in another language.

Ratings:

Story: 5/5

If you’re looking for a good Christmas gift for your kids, grandkids, or a friend’s progeny, then look no further! This book will make an excellent book for any child how loves to read, be read to, or wants to learn another language. I highly recommend reading this to your kids or grandkids on Christmas Eve or Day to get them into the holiday spirit, and to provide a laugh or two before the family comes over.

Illustrations: 5/5

I can’t say enough about the illustrations, but the illustrator did a fantastic job bringing this story to life with their art. The colors and styling not only do a wonderful job accenting the story, but they’ll definitely draw the eyes of any child, so be prepared to stare at the same page for more than a few minutes!

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Book Review: Blue Spots

Blue SpotsDetails:

Title: Blue Spots

Author: Nicoline Evans

Illustrator: Senyphine

Publisher: Morris Publishing

Released Date: April 11, 2015

Genre: Children’s book, poetry

Pages: 42

Synopsis:

(As written on goodreads)

Blue Spots is a story for people burdened by sadness. In a city where it takes place, emotional scars appear on the characters as blue spots. In our world, these marks are internal and invisible, but in this book they are external and displayed for all to see. They symbolize the various forms of sorrow a person might encounter during their lifetime. My intention when writing this story was to instill hope. I hope it gives those who live with sadness the courage to persevere through their darkest times.

What I First Thought:

I bought this book with several other books from Nicoline Evans from Philcon in New Jersey this past October. The cover looked beautiful and Nicoline told me about the project she was working on with this book as the first of many. After hearing what she wanted to do, making a children’s book for every emotion, I decided that I wanted to help her out and see this series come to life.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

This book was absolutely beautiful and wonderful to read. When I first read it, after buying it from the author herself, it brought tears to my eyes. Being in public, I didn’t want to visibly cry, but boy was it hard to keep my cheeks dry.  The story really spoke to me and the art was breath-taking.

When I read this book a second time, months and several terrible events later, I cried again. Sure, the first time I read this book I had quite a few blue spots myself, but by the time I read it again I had several more and the message really spoke to me.

Growing up I developed a ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude, which basically meant that I cried when necessary, but if something needed to be done then the tears were saved for later. While this attitude helped me in some situations in which I had to keep my head, it made grieving and handling sadness really hard when I had nothing else to do. And lately, I’ve had a real issue with that. With not much to keep me distracted from my grieving and sadness, I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time thinking of everything that has lead to my sadness and everything that I could have done differently. This isn’t always a bad thing to do, especially in small doses. However, I haven’t been able to do it in small doses and my pain has only accumulated, making things worse because I can’t let go.

Unfortunately, I see many people do the same. We, as humans, don’t handle grief or sadness very well. Some people try to ignore it while others wear it on their sleeves to get attention from the people around them. Some people even let their blue spots rule their lives, using them as an excuse not to succeed or move on.

After reading this book a second time my outlook of my sadness, my blue spots, has changed. I no longer see them as failures, imperfections, or reminders of sadder events. I now see these as proof that I have survived my grief, reminders that I’ve grown stronger as an individual. And I believe the message of this book is one that every child and adult alike should learn, that sadness is just another small part of the larger story that is your life. So if one day you’re completely covered in blue, you can say to the world that you have lived and survived all that was thrown your way.

The illustrations for this book were amazing! They kind of reminded me some of Tim Burton’s style of drawing, where the characters were long limbed and the surroundings had a lot of curling lines and designs. I really liked that Senyphine made the heads larger than normal portions, seeming to focus more on their faces, which is usually the first thing we see of a person or where we focus. The coloring in this book was beautiful too. The shades and colors really matched the mood and added to the story as well.

Final Thoughts:

Read this to your kids! Read this to your friends. Read this to your parents. Read this to your lover. Read this to yourself. Find an excuse to buy the book and read it! The message is absolutely wonderful, one that I wish I had learned sooner, and is applicable to any age. While it looks and reads like a children’s book, any adult would enjoy it too. The poetry is masterful and the illustrations go so well with the story, from the designs to the coloring. This book is absolutely perfect and I would love to see more of this from Nicoline Evans.

Ratings:

Story: 5/5

Fantastic and easy to follow. The story is beautiful and shows the readers a lesson that may appear to be simple, but many people either never learn or forget over time. It brought tears to my eyes and I’m sure it will bring many more as I read it as a reminder to myself. I believe this would make for an outstanding gift to any child, or a thoughtful one to any person you know going through a hard time.

Illustrations: 5/5

I’ve already spoken a lot for the artwork in this book. Senyphine is a wonderful artist with a style that I would love to see again in other books! Her coloring and detailing were superb, making every page harder to look away from, but I wanted to see more and more. I still want to see more of their work!

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